Senior outfielder Adam Melker stood in center field during the ninth inning of the Mustangs’ season finale against Cal State Bakersfield Sunday afternoon.
Poised to tally a commanding season-ending win, he and the rest of the seniors were pulled from the game. The crowd cheered as one of the most successful recruitment classes in head coach Larry Lee’s tenure made their way off the field.
Junior Jono Grayson was Melker’s replacement. The two met in left center field, both with so much to say.
“(Grayson) just joined the team this year, but I feel like I have known him for 10 years. He is a great kid, and he just told me that he learned a lot from me and he appreciated what I have done for him. I told him the same,” Melker said. “He helped me out too.”
With the help of Melker, Luke Yoder and the rest of the senior class, the Mustangs (23-32) boasted a 25-run, 32-hit offensive outburst to fuel Cal Poly past Cal State Bakersfield (26-30), 25-8, in its final game of the season.
“Jokingly, it’s all the hits and stuff that we didn’t get at the beginning of the season,” Yoder said. “In all honesty, we just knew what we had to do in order to go out there and win a series.”
In the win, the Mustangs set a new school record for hits in a game at the Division-I level, recorded their highest run total in a game since a 28-16 victory over Nevada in 1997, held three players who tallied five hits in game for the first time in school history and set a new record for doubles in a game with nine.
“That definitely says something about us, as a team, and says something about the character of our team,” Yoder said. “(Today) was about playing for respect for ourselves and respect for us as a team.“
The Mustangs end their season as victors of 13 of their last 18 games. Cal Poly also won its fourth series in the last five weeks — the only series the Mustangs won this year — all coming after a 10-27 record to start the season.
“Especially for seniors, we didn’t want to leave on a bad note,” Melker said. “We turned it around a little too late, but we turned it around. We started playing like I knew we could.”
For Melker, Sunday marked the end if his career with the Mustangs. The senior finishes with a .337 batting average on the season — going 2-for-6 in his final game.
“I have been here for four years, I have had ups and downs, but overall I have absolutely loved it. I told Coach Lee it has been the best experience I have had in my entire life and I thanked him for the opportunity he gave me four years ago,” Melker said. “It’s the end of something great.”
The senior highlights one the more impressive recruitment classes Lee has had in years, he said.
“If you (look at) the statical history, they were all big contributors, and that’s a rarity,” Lee said.
The class, along with the rest of the Mustangs, scored in every inning except the third inning — while also scoring multiple runs in every one of those innings except the first. The Mustangs more than doubled Cal State Bakersfield totals in runs and hits. They had every starter in the line-up hit safely multiple times and six players boast multiple RBI games. Third baseman Evan Busby led the team, finishing 5-for-6 with six RBIs. Designated hitter Mitch Haniger also finished 5-for-6 with three RBIs.
But, even with all the broken records, the offensive showcase came at a handicap.
“We had two position players (catcher Ross Brayton and second baseman Matt Jensen) who were on the bench, and we had three relievers who were available today,” Lee said. “When your starter gets four outs, it sucks the life out of you as an offensive and defensive team. Give our offense credit; we were able to rebound from it.”
Eugene Wright started the game pitching just over one inning while allowing four earned runs off six hits. His replacement, senior relief pitcher Mark DeVincenzi pitched just over the next four — his longest stint as a Mustang — matching a career-high six strikeouts while failing to give up an earned run.
“He came in, in a part of the game where we didn’t have a lot of energy, we hadn’t pitched well up to that point and as the innings progressed he got better and better. It was his best outing of the season,” Lee said. “He really allowed us to bridge the gap later in the ballgame.”
With the season ending, the seniors have their careers halted from a final championship push. After going 37-21 a year ago — claiming the first NCAA regional bid in school history — the Mustangs fell short of the high expectations they set last season. But the Mustangs made the most of their late season schedule, giving the seniors a gift in a season that fell short of a championship.
“It’s a good note to go out on,” Yoder said.